In September, I attended the American Climate Leadership Summit 2016 and I heard story after story about how climate change is impacting different communities and what they are doing about it. The Summit was hosted by ecoAmerica, a non-profit organization that works with partners to build awareness, understanding and action for climate and environmental solutions. The Summit was incredibly inspirational, as it was focused on solutions and things people can do to raise awareness and create solutions to address climate and health issues. The most impactful part of the experience was hearing stories from different populations and regions.
The Summit included over 250 leaders at the main day’s events and over 50 health leaders on day two for the health leadership discussion and panel. I was overwhelmed by the commitment in the room as I was surrounded by leaders from faith organizations, the environmental and conservation movements as well as scholars and physicians. Panels ranged from the morning session on generating climate solutions to a panel on critical success factors for implementation. I was especially moved by the stories told by Ms. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker of the African Methodist Episcopal Church on how she became involved in the issues. She has worked in advocacy her entire adult life and is now working through her faith community to find solutions and create action. It really spoke to me as I have worked with my own faith community to implement recycling, clothing reuse and exchange, a community garden and to divest our portfolio of investments in fossil fuels. I think that personal actions and personal stories resonate with people and the ones that speak to their underlying beliefs are those which will propel action towards solutions.
The biggest takeaway I had from the whole meeting was how many different sectors and groups are working together to put forth not just data and evidence-based solutions, but people centric messages that resonate with people from a wide variety of cultures and geographies. The AME Church passed its first climate change resolution just this year, and is working to advocate at the national level for policies to address climate change. Present at the table also were the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Dr. Antonio Flores told the story of the difficulties of getting young Hispanic Americans into science careers so they can contribute to the solutions conversation. He illustrated the involvement of Mexican American scientists through the story of Dr. Mario Molina, a visionary chemist and environmental scientist who was born in Mexico and came to the US to earn his graduate degree. Dr. Molina was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering how chlorofluorocarbons deplete the ozone layer.
ecoAmerica convened a diverse group of scientists, religious and lay leaders and public health professionals to create solutions-based scenarios and gave us time to network and discover new partners. NEHA is excited to be at the table and is developing a leadership strategy around climate change. If you are working on climate solutions in your community, let us know! We’d like to help you tell your story.